Welcome back to the Bargain Bin! This hobby might often be a financially demanding one, and with the almost infinitely-headed hydra known as ZineQuest on the loose again this month that’s even more true than usual, so I thought it might be nice to have a reminder that you can find good games at bargain prices. When the price is Pay What You Want, you can check the game out for free before spending anything! This time out you will cross the galaxy, taking on the battles that no one else can fight. You will face ruthless aliens, explore desolated worlds and perform terrible deeds just to give humankind one more day before extinction. You will overcome these challenges by the might of your arm and soul… or you will face a destiny worse than death. Not as individuals, no, but as legions of elite warriors. This is Space Knights, written by Gabriel Ciprés!
This game is not shy about the fact that it has taken Warhammer 40k and filed the serial numbers off for its inspiration, but it provides a unique gameplay perspective on the setting/genre. Powered by the Apocalypse by way of Urban Shadows, Gauntlet World, Rovers, Offworlders, and The Regiment, Space Knights sees the players taking on the role of not a single character, but an entire Company each of the titular Knights from an Order of Elite Warriors.
First, you build your setting using some tables: who rules the Domain of Humankind, what is it’s size and status, who are its enemies, what are the strengths and weaknesses of all Space Knights, and so on. While you could really lean in to the 40k clone idea with a Domain with thousands of worlds ruled by a god-like being and steeped in moral turpitude, you could also have a single solar system, ruled by a Galactic Council or a supercomputer, seen by its citizens as honourable and generous. So there’s some refreshing freedom, there. What’s always true is that there is a power out there, known as the Darkness, which strives regardless of its form to see the Domain eradicated.
Then you create the Order of Elite Warriors that all of the Space Knights in the campaign will serve with. They’ll have at least one Dogma, something that benefits them like being experts at urban warfare or having a good reputation. They can get an extra Dogma if they also start play with a Sin that hampers them, such as arrogance or having old equipment. And, of course, they’ll have a name (there’s a table for that), a symbol, and a color pattern for their armor.
Each player picks a type of company, which determines your starting stats in War, Faith, and Logistics. Company type also grants Capacities, such as the Assault Company’s Close Combat Weapons or the Armoured Company’s Vehicles. Then you add +1 to one of your stats, no higher than +3, and an additional Capacity from a list. Once you’ve got your Companies set up, it’s time to go on missions! You may be boarding a space hulk on a collision course with a planet, conquering an alien world, maintaining the peace, or exploring an untouched area of space (there’s a table for creating those too). Whatever you’re doing, it’s the usual 2d6+stat to determine success, although Space Knights makes things a little more interesting with options for results of 13+, such as the Mission Move used to set the stage for the beginning of the mission (maintaining unit cohesion, gaining a tactical edge, etc.).
Unlike other PbtA games the Company type doesn’t grant unique moves, but it does change how that Company will interact with the basic moves. For example, when using Quest to look for something or try to take advantage of an enemy, Armoured Companies are never delayed, and Squire and Assault Companies don’t engage in combat unless they want to, avoiding some of the consequences of a miss. The sole Elite Company in each Order treats a 6 or less on In the Name of Humankind, the move used for social interactions with other factions, as a 7-9. Assault Companies have Advantage (roll 3d6 and take the highest) when using Always War.
From there, fight to protect the Domain of Humankind! You’ll mark Glory to improve your Companies and the Order at large, Damnation when you give into the Darkness plaguing humankind, and Troops as you take casualties. Each Order has 10 Companies in total, and it’s likely that with enough play you’ll see some wiped out, new ones mustered, and some falling to Darkness and returning as a threat. Companies can (try to) go out in a blaze of glory in their Final Battle, and when you want to wrap up a campaign you can use From Here to Eternity (modifying the roll with such questions as “Has the Order more than one Sin?” and “Have you protected those in need?”) to determine whether your Order will be the model for all future Space Knights or consigned to oblivion.
Space Knights packs a lot into its ten pages, from interesting mechanics to idea fodder, covering everything you’ll need to play a one-shot or campaign from the set-up all the way to the epilogue. With interesting tweaks to the mechanics and a low bar for entry (there are even three example Orders and a quartet of missions if you want to jump right into things), even if you’re not a 40k fan there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Space Knights is available in both English and Spanish at Pay What You Want, with a recommended price of $1.00.